A passenger leaves Five Points MARTA station in downtown Atlanta on Dec. 24, 2015, which was a soggy and muggy Christmas Eve. The amount of rainfall in metro Atlanta this December threatens to break a record that has been in place for nearly a century. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

Metro Atlanta rainfall hammers at record

We are closing in on a record no one wants to break.

If weather forecasts prove accurate — and, boy, they have so far this soggy, soggy month — this final month of 2015 may set an all-time record for December rainfall.

The metro region needs only about 4 more inches of rain to best December 1919 as the sloshiest December ever. Ninety-six years ago, Atlantans suffered through 12.94 inches of rain from Dec. 1 to the end of the year.

As of Sunday afternoon, 9.3 inches of water this month had fallen, hammered, misted, drizzled and poured on our collective head. Atlanta has been at the terminus of an immense downspout — a warm one, too.

Channel 2 meteorologist Karen Minton said that as much as 3 to 5 inches could fall by Wednesday, which would surpass the 1919 mark.

If those predictions are correct, they could have ramifications for people traveling late this week as the holiday period nears an end. At best, these rains could be a nuisance; at worst, they could be dangerous.

Just how dangerous became clear Monday afternoon when officials in Gordon County said they recovered the body of a man killed when flood waters swept away his car. Gordon County is about 60 miles north of Atlanta.

The weather in other parts of the country has been as bad, or worse. A large storm system moving across the central United States on Monday prompted airlines to cancel more than 1,400 flights — most at Chicago’s two airports or at Dallas-Fort Worth International. Airports in Denver, Detroit, Milwaukee and St. Louis also reported lots of cancellations.

As of late Monday afternoon, administrators at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport said there were no weather-related flight delays. But thunderstorms expected to move into the region might prove troublesome for travelers.

A spokeswoman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency said officials were watching flood and river levels as the next round of wet weather approached.

Gov. Nathan Deal has already declared states of emergency in three North Georgia counties. Christmas Eve flooding in Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties damaged roadways, downed trees and led to at least one landslide.

Crews in Pickens County were working to repair four roads where portions of the pavement had washed away, said Robert Jones, chairman of the Pickens County Board of Commissioners. This time of year, he said, the county 50 miles north of Atlanta normally wrestles with ice storms and snow — not swollen rivers and lakes.

“We’re looking at another 3 to 5 inches over the next three days,” Jones said, “and the ground is already saturated.”

Even the meteorologists at the National Weather Service, who view this sort of thing with professional detachment, have had enough.

“There’s going to be more rain,” meteorologist Patricia Atwell said. “It’s hard to spin that positively.”

Instead, weather officials issued a metro flood watch. It took effect Monday afternoon and runs through 7 a.m. Thursday.

The “rain events” — that’s the term meteorologists use — can be blamed on El Niño. The weather pattern occurs every few years. The Pacific Ocean warms around the equator, creating a swirl of dampness across western and Gulf states. That’s brought stunning amounts of rain to our streets, backyards and basements.

Earlier this year, meteorologists warned that this El Niño would be the strongest in 20 years. Events outside our homes so far confirm that prediction.

“We have a lot of trapped moisture,” Atwell said. “It’s going to come over us.”

And, perhaps, submerge a record that has stood for nearly a century.

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The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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